She was a warrior princess on stage Saturday night, but yesterday afternoon a humble Ruslana from the Ukraine broke down in tears of joy after her victory at the Eurovision Song Contest with the energ

She was a warrior princess on stage Saturday night, but yesterday afternoon a humble Ruslana from the Ukraine broke down in tears of joy after her victory at the Eurovision Song Contest with the energetic "Wild Dances."

"I really didn't expect this outcome," said the singer, whose "Wild Dances" album turned platinum in her own country at the end of 2003. "After I heard Spain, Turkey and Belgium I freaked out and thought [they] would win."

"Wild Dances," written by Ruslana with lyricist Alexander Ksenofontov, was only the second entry for Ukraine in the pan-European competition. Ukraine placed 14th in 2003 with its first attempt, "Hasta La Vista" by Oleksandr Ponomaryev. This is the fourth consecutive year that the contest was won by a country that had never claimed the trophy before. Estonia claimed first place in 2001, Latvia scored highest in 2002 and Turkey won in 2003.

Ruslana is preparing her first English-language album and promised yesterday it would be ready for a June release. The artist is also planning a 12-city tour of the United States during the summer.

The 49th annual Eurovision Song Contest was the largest ever, with 36 countries taking part. A semi-final on May 12 eliminated 12 countries from the competition, leaving 24 to battle it out on the May 15 final before a crowd of 7,500 at Abdi Ipekci arena in Istanbul and a television audience of over 100 million viewers.

The Eurovision format features all 24 songs performed in succession during the first two hours of the show, followed by a 10-minute window for televoters to call in for their favorites. The last 75 minutes of the telecast is devoted to the 36 countries reporting their votes, this year in alphabetical order.

The European Broadcasting Union employs tie-breaking methods, which turned out to be important for Malta. While Malta and Croatia are tied with 50 points each, the cutoff line for automatic qualification into the 2005 final allows Malta in and puts Croatia in the position of competing in next year's semi-final for a spot in the final, to be held somewhere in the Ukraine.